The Writer and the Written

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By NS Madhavan

When I was reading Lakshmi Kannan’s The Glass Bead Curtain, all hell was breaking loose in Tamil Nadu. Seldom have I experienced real time being so much at odds with fictional time. The urge to juxtapose the novel against the current events was compelling because it is sequestered within the interiors of Brahmin homes of the old Madras Presidency of pre-Independence India, while what was happening in present-day Chennai was out on the roads and beaches. But by and by, I found out that that was not the case, actually. If at all the novel has to be connected to the present, the reader might experience more of seamless fusion than rupture, at the conscious level.

The Glass Bead Curtain is a novel within a novel, with writer-character Shailaja shaking off a bout of writer’s block and starting a novel on Kalyani, born into a conservative Tamil Brahmin family. Kannan explores the meta-fictionality deftly, weaving complex patterns not only between the parallel lives of Shailaja, the writer, and Kalyani, the written, but also between conflicting zeitgeists of the writer’s time in the present and of the past imagined by her.

Shailaja’s novel ends in 1985, when a woman in her childhood was customarily deprived of education and could not have written her own name, could by then “have written all that she wrote.” It would take three more years for Tamil Nadu to get its first woman chief minister, VN Janaki. Read more

Source: The Indian Express

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